Sunday, July 17, 2011

Heart of the Samurai

I was a Samurai once.

Oh yes, it's true.

I have the sword to prove it.

When I was a Samurai, I was specifically in charge of honoring the dead.  I would go out to the battlefield and tend to the fallen, to give them a burial fitting their service and sacrifice.  Each of my comrades was special; I knew something of each story. All had come to fight for something they cherished in their lives, whether family, purpose, or King.  If some had fought more valiantly than others, it did not matter.  In death they were all equal.  In death they were all honored.

I discovered that I was uniquely gifted for this task.  I carried a sense of the sacred with me wherever I went.  I recognized it instantly in my surroundings and circumstances, savoring its meaning as flavor in life and a sweet perfume in death.  I have always been drawn to the eternal, the epic, the generative.  Unique among my comrades, I could honor the stories, honor their memories, honor the peace when others might only see tragedy, endings, and fruitlessness.  I did my job quickly, respectfully, and passionately.

Upon reflection, I consider now that this may be why I was called up in the heat of battle one day.  We had been at war for some time and casualties had been high.  Many had died in what seemed to be senseless skirmishes and I wondered when I would be pulled from my duties to fight beside my brothers and sisters.  Would I finally experience the charge of the field only to be defeated by chance instead of skill?  We could all feel the tension mounting, the crescendo of our cause building in our hearts and minds and ears.  Troops were being called out more quickly.  The sounds of fighting were louder, closer.  It was time for the full force of our army to be brought to bear on our enemy.  That is when I received word.

There was a sudden hush.  The fighting ceased.  In the center of the field between us and our enemy, space opened.  I could see our warriors were weary.  Perhaps it was that they were losing sight of what was precious to them, or beginning to wonder if their side was really the right side to be on.  Whatever the case, my fight, as it would turn out, my task when I was finally called upon to enter into the fray, became a battle for the heart. 

You see, in that moment of respite, I was called forth to speak to the assembled, to read the Samurai Code of Honor, to remind our fellows of all that was meaningful to them, of the oaths that they had taken, and of everything that was on the line.  I stood in the center of that field, my face to the sky, appealing as much to the heavens as to those around me.  Within a stone's throw was my enemy.

To this day I do not know if my commander saw that moment coming, saw it and planned it that way, or if it was just chance that I was still alive at that crucial point in time, alive and possessing just the heart and gifts needed for what was to come.  I suppose it does not matter.  What I do know is that I was selected in that moment to stir the hearts and faith of our warriors, and it was the one thing I was uniquely qualified to do.  I had seen and commemorated what others gave their lives for.  I had cherished the sacred moments in my heart.

My fight was not with swords but words, ideas, and passion. I went head to head with our enemy's best orator, and when I was done no one could remember her words.  When the final notes of my voice faded from my mouth, no one could hear anything but the shouts of my people as they plunged back into the battle, and I turned at that moment to find my opponent dead at my feet, not a mark on her body from a blow.  In the battle for our honor we had been fighting to the death; let no one misconstrue the power of our passion!

I remembered these things today as I sat around a table with my friends, so seemingly removed from war and death.  I cannot tell you exactly what brought the memories to mind or why, but I suppose it doesn't matter.  What I do know is that the battle I fought so many years ago - when I was a Samurai - was only ever meant to open my eyes to the battle I fight here and now in this more mundane-appearing life. That war was a testimony to the way that God made me uniquely me and equipped me to do battle in this world for the hearts and minds of my compatriots on the journey.  God used that experience as a part of my call to ministry, and not long after my days on that battlefield tending the dead, I conducted a funeral service for my own sister.  And about the same time I was anointed to preach and teach at local churches - about death and life and recovery; about the battle for our hearts and how to fight it.

So I suppose I am still a Samurai: A Samurai Pastor.